Whether through technological advances or long-lasting changes brought about by the global pandemic, working from home has become the new norm in many workplaces.
Despite research suggesting a boost in productivity and employee satisfaction, working from home can still pose serious problems for business owners, including protecting data and cybersecurity.
In this article, we will compare and contrast different work models, highlighting their unique benefits and the potential challenges you must address to keep your information as secure as possible.
Working from office
Working from the office is still common worldwide, where employees are physically present in a shared office space. The benefits of this traditional setup include face-to-face communication, better team-building, and in terms of cybersecurity, a stable, secure, and easy-to-monitor network.
With everyone working from one location, your IT department can maintain a centralised network where all employees can log on, upload and download files safely and securely, and be reminded to follow proper protocols periodically.
Cyberattacks can be detected and acted upon in real time, and regular system security updates can be installed and managed in unison.
But office work is slowly becoming outdated as employees move toward more flexible jobs. For this reason, employers must recognize that the growing appeal of working from home is not going away. And if they want to entice and retain the best workers, they’ll need to adapt.
Working from home (WFH)
Although growing in popularity, working from home brings about serious security concerns for businesses in two significant ways: staff education and establishing a safe, secure connection from a home network to the office.
First, staff training is essential to safely manage and protect sensitive data and ensure workers are confident in their work. But research to date paints a very bleak picture of this area.
Studies conducted in 2020 found that more than 50% of employees working from home at that time had no idea how to handle customer data or password management and often used personal devices with no additional security for work duties. Up to 50% reported they feared a cyberattack when working from home. This lack of training and preparedness meant many employees were sitting ducks for cybercriminals.
The other problem to consider is how employees will access work files outside the office and what security issues will arise. After all, a person’s home network will not be as secure as the office, and cybercriminals often prey on home PCs and laptops for easier access to information.
Many businesses use a method known as port forwarding, which allows employees at home access to documents on a private network. While port forwarding is commonly used in gaming and connecting IoT devices around our home, it can introduce new security risks in a work environment if misconfigured.
That’s because an opportunistic cybercriminal can use port forwarding to access the entire connected work network. For that reason alone, proper installation is essential.
While we may have painted a bleak picture of the WFH model, you must remember that it is doable. But for it to work successfully, employees must receive adequate training, and the connection between home and work must be safe, secure, and protected.
Hybrid work setups
For employees, a hybrid working model can offer the best of both worlds: the flexibility to work from home and the opportunity to work collaboratively in the office.
Often, it is the transition businesses make before committing to remote work full-time. But hybrid setups can be a nightmare, at least initially.
Work laptops and smart devices constantly shift between the office and home network, and employees may become lax on security protocols over time. They may use work devices personally and introduce malware into the work network.
For this reason, many businesses are now promoting a ‘cyber-resilient’ culture among their employees. This might include establishing clear security protocols that are revised and reviewed regularly.
You may also implement multi-factor authentication, regular security training, and perform security audits to spot vulnerabilities before they lead to disaster. This helps place cybersecurity at the forefront of business instead of being a costly afterthought only dealt with when something goes wrong.
Which setup is best? It depends
With each passing day, employees are expecting more flexible working conditions. Offices are becoming distant memories as hybrid and working from home have become the norm.
This poses significant challenges to businesses, who must adapt quickly to retain staff and keep their doors open.
As our article has shown, staff education and training are pivotal to moving toward a hybrid or WFH model. Establish direct guidelines, secure and maintain connections, and create a ‘cyber-resilient’ culture in your workspace to prepare for this new age of remote working.
Only then can the threat of cybercriminals be minimised and workforces be allowed the freedom to work from wherever they please.